A humbling lesson from my son Jonathan
A few weeks ago, my eleven-year-old son, Jonathan, and I were talking about our favorite Hollywood actors and movies, along with his cousins. And when one particular actor’s name came up, I reacted with some unkind words… I don’t even recall what I said. Of course, it was meant to be a harmless, laugh-and-forget joke. Not that I don’t respect his acting skill, but he is just not one I fancy watching.
Many hours later, just before we all went to bed, Jonathan came up to me, looking visibly disturbed, and asked me why I had made an unkind remark about that actor. He strongly felt that I had “dismissed” a person with a single judgment; a label to write him off.
In an instant, I realized what that silly comment of mine meant to my son, and how seriously he had taken it. More importantly, how much it bothered him that I was being unkind to a person…..even though that person lives thousands of miles away, would never know or care what I think of him, and who is, by any measure, more successful than I may ever be.
I was grieved by own behavior. I immediately apologized to Jonathan and said, “My son, I never meant to hurt anyone. I probably didn’t even think about, and certainly didn’t mean, what I said. He’s actually a great actor…just not my kind. And I should not have spoken in that derogatory way.”
But Jonathan was still troubled: “Then, why Daddy, did you say it?...I felt really bad for him when you responded like that.”
From that day, I have never spoken of this actor in a negative way. And I learnt a few lessons from this small incident which I hope will stay with me:
That my little son can teach me so much about the power of words; and that I must be so much more conscious of how deeply my words and actions impact him.
That, as a father, I need to raise my standards of personal conduct – because I am being watched so carefully, and my children look to me for an example.
That there is no excuse for fun which insults someone – even if no offence is really meant; what is rude and obnoxious is uncharitable, and that’s that!
That Jonathan has the heart to feel so much for someone he has only seen on screen a few times (and by no means his favorite movie star either!). Shouldn’t I have taught him such empathy?!
That he had the willingness to confront me about what he thought was my inappropriate response. I am grateful he feels strongly about such things, and has the guts to say so.
Most important of all, it made me realize that shooting an arrow at someone is the crime, even if the arrow never reaches the person, even if that person isn’t even around, even if the person may never know or care about it. To be hurtful is wrong. Even if no one is hurt! A standard my father upheld for us in our growing years - Respect for the absent! Looks like I'm still just learning...
I am grateful to God for my son, and I hope he will never let the evil all around contaminate the seed of goodness within him.
Truly, the most beautiful insights often come from the most unlikely places. And, as the Bible tells us… out of the mouth of babes, comes truth and wisdom!